3M gets $16.5 million in new building permits for plant expansion in Clinton

A tractor-trailer pulls out of the sprawling 3M Company plant complex in the Eagle Bend Industrial Park in Clinton. The plant, which opened in 2015 on the former site of a Food Lion distribution center, will undergo a major expansion this year. (photo:G. Chambers Williams III )
Clinton’s 3M Company filtration-products plant in the Eagle Bend Industrial Park will spend $16.5 million on expansion projects this year that should lead to new jobs, according to economic development officials and building permits issued by the city of Clinton.

The sprawling 772,000-square-foot plant, which 3M purchased on a 160-acre site in the industrial park in December 2014, already had about 125 employees as of October.

But no information is available yet on how many new jobs might be created by the coming expansion, said Andy Wallace, president of the Anderson County Economic Development Association.

“They are in the middle of an expansion,” Wallace said. “We are working with them to help out with some state and local [financial] incentives. They are going to be making an announcement about it when they get their incentives from the state.”

According to public records with the city of Clinton, 3M obtained a building permit on March 13 for $4.5 million for what was described as a “3M Mill Project” by The Christman Company for an “industrial interior renovation.”

That was followed on June 4 by a $12 million building permit, also for an “industrial interior renovation” by The Christman Company.

Both are for the 3M manufacturing complex at 400 JD Yarnell Industrial Parkway.

3M took over the building and property formerly used as a Food Lion distribution center and paid $14.4 million for 160 acres and the 772,000-square-foot building in the 2014 transaction, according to news releases at the time, and a story by Bob Fowler in the Knoxville News Sentinel in 2016.

The company went on to get a total of $120.5 million in building permits for “projects ranging from more than 65,000 square feet of building expansions to renovating the existing building for use as a manufacturing facility,” Fowler wrote.

Fowler said in the June 2016 story that “conversion into a manufacturing facility by one of America’s best-known companies remains a mysterious, low-profile work in progress.”

A news release on 3M’s website about an event at the plant in October 2019 noted:

“The plant’s 125 employees manufacture a range of products, including Filtrete filters and 3M Thinsulate insulation for the automotive industry.

“The growing plant has added 100 employees in the past year alone – a figure noted by local elected officials, members of the Manufacturing Institute — the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturing — and Walmart executives during a visit Oct. 17,” the release said.

The October event was held “as part of Manufacturing Month,” the company said, adding: “3M’s plant in Clinton, Tennessee, is hosting Walmart and the Manufacturing Institute to celebrate our shared commitment to creating jobs and investing in the diverse, skilled workforce of tomorrow.”

Fowler’s story suggested that 3M was slow to ramp up its workforce in Clinton, saying, “ … to date, only 25 people — machine operators, planners and maintenance workers — are working over three shifts on the sprawling, fenced-in site.” That information was attributed to Andy Heckl, the plant’s engineering manager at the time.

“ … Heckl and other 3M officials remain tight-lipped about what exactly is being done in Clinton, leaving even the county’s industrial recruiter in the dark,” Fowler wrote.

As for what’s going on now, 3M officials and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development did not reply to emails and phone calls from The Courier News requesting information about the building permits and expansion plans.

In its announcement of 3M’s initial move into the Eagle Bend site, the state ECD said it was “the latest step in 3M’s efforts to grow its North American manufacturing operations, and represents an investment of $135 million and the creation of 100 new jobs in Anderson County.”

The company had announced plans to have the initial construction work done and the plant in operation by the fourth quarter of 2015.

“I could not be prouder or happier to have 3M Company choose Anderson County as a place to work and grow their business,” Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank said at the time of the 2014 announcement. “3M has nothing short of an incredible track record of innovation that touches just about all of our lives, and we’re thankful for their continued commitment to hard work and progress.”

Mayor Frank said Monday that she had not yet heard about 3M’s latest plans or the prospect of more jobs.

Among new incentives 3M would be seeking from the state and city/county governments are sales and property tax breaks, and, from the governor’s office, money from the so-called Fast Track fund to help pay for training of workers for the expanded operation.

“We’re pleased to be part of the Clinton community, to support the growth and sustainability of this vibrant area,” Jolene Conard, vice president and general manager of 3M’s Construction and Home Improvement Markets division, said in the October event. “Today we couldn’t be more excited to celebrate local manufacturing and the creation of jobs with our retail partner Walmart along with our employees, local officials, educational partners and community leaders.”

At that time, 3M announced donations to two local educational initiatives “encouraging careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” the release said, adding that the grants were made to “NeXxus, a student-led organization at the University of Tennessee connecting women to supply chain careers, and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, a partner in training the manufacturing workforce of the future.”

3M Company was founded in 1902 as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. It is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Today, according to its website, “more than 60,000 3M products are used in homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and other industries.”

Probably its most-recognizable brand is Scotch tape. followed by those little pads of Post-It notes.